For many teenagers out there, prom is the greatest highlight of their high school days. This is one night of laughter and fun when magic is supposed to be in the air. It is definitely an event that you will look back on for the rest of your life. However, things were different for Clare Ettinger. If you ask her, it was not at all the fantasy she had in mind.
Clare Ettinger was a 17-year-old girl who was excited to attend “Twilight in Paris” with James Thompson, her boyfriend. We cannot blame them for having such high expectations for the upcoming prom. After all, who would not be thrilled to dance the night away with their sweetheart? James even bought them tickets far in advance! They were determined to make it their night.
Finding The Right Dress
Like the rest of her friends, it was a challenge to find the perfect dress. However, Clare made sure to put in the effort necessary to find “the one”. It was a sparkly and glittery silver cocktail dress she found on a rack in Macy’s. As you can imagine, she could not wait to put it on and show it to her friends.
However, finding the perfect dress was only a single part of this adventure. Of course, she also had to find the money to buy it. It was a good thing that she was a responsible young person who saved up the tips she got at her job. Everything was looking good, and she was getting more and more excited.
Passing The Test
There was a strict dress length that she had to take into consideration, so she ensured that her dress made the cut. According to the rules on the invitation, the dress hem had to rest below her fingertips. Apart from this length test, the event also called for semi-formal dresses for girls. Clare felt at ease after seeing that the dress fit these two qualifications. She knew that this was a special dress, and she was more than ready to rock it.
Sharing The Excitement
Like the rest of the teenagers at the school, she prepared herself for the big night. She also went on social media to talk about how excited she was. On her sister’s blog, she wrote this: “I’m all dolled up, channeling my inner Marilyn Monroe with my blonde hair and bright red lipstick.” She was about to make a discovery that would change things for her.
Although she had already tried the dress out several times before the actual day of the prom, she noticed something different the final time she slipped it on. After putting her heels on, the fit of the dress seemed to change. The length of the dress was perfectly fine as long as she stood still, but the dress hiked up her thighs whenever she walked or danced. As long as she was mindful and moved with grace, there should be no problems.
When she got to the dance, she did not have to wait before the school administration stopped her. An event organizer by the name of Ann Duncan took her aside right away and informed her, “Honey, that dress is too short.” Clare knew the rules for the dance very well, so she immediately asked Duncan, “What is the rule?”
At that, Ann Duncan looked at the girl sternly and told her, “Fingertip length.” Clare believed she would be able to convince her teacher by explaining that she was merely a “tall and curvy girl with long legs”. Unfortunately, the teacher did not accept the argument and told Clare it did not pass the dress code.
Clare was not about to go home since her dress did pass the so-called “fingertip test” they implemented. She even showed the teacher that her dress actually made the cut if only by a strand. The teacher conceded and allowed her to go to the bathroom. Still, both of them were aware that it was a close call.
Getting A Warning
Mrs. Duncan did not let Clare enter without giving her the stern warning to ensure that the dress “stays pulled down”. She even repeated that the dress was far too short in her eyes and promised she would observe her the whole time.
A Sigh Of Relief
When Clare got to the bathroom, she was able to let out a sigh of relief that she was able to make it. She would later recount, “When I got into the ballroom I laughed because I was surrounded by girls in much shorter dresses than me, albeit they were shorter, and therefore stood out less in the crowd, but it was still frustrating.” However, she was just glad to be inside. Clare was ready to enjoy the night as planned.
Something Was Off
When Clare and James got to the dance floor, the two of them felt like there was something different from the past years. What made them feel that way? Apparently, the venue was crowded with all the chaperones and dads. It ruined the high school ball vibe and made everyone feel uncomfortable. This was especially true with all the fathers on the balcony who had a good view of all the girls dancing.
When the dance ended, Clare wrote this on the blog: “I felt violated by the sheer number of male parents that were assigned to do nothing for five hours other than watch girls in short dresses and heels dance to upbeat music.” She went on, “I think that it is sick and wrong that they assigned them to sit on a balcony above us and look down on us and single us out for our clothes or dancing.”
Although there was plenty of things around them that took away from the atmosphere, the high schoolers did not want anything to ruin the night. However, things changed all of a sudden without anyone noticing right away. “I think that it is sick and wrong that they assigned them to sit on a balcony above us and look down on us and single us out for our clothes or dancing.” Clare then noticed that the teacher was crossing the dance floor to get to her.
Telling Her Off
Mrs. Duncan told Clare to get off the dance floor and even took her to a corner with a parent. “She took me into a corner in the hallway, with another woman – who I’m assuming was a parent chaperone – and told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts,” Clare reported on the blog. However, is it really her peers having impure thoughts? Or was it their parents?
Clare was irked that the adults accused her of starting “impure thoughts”. She was made to feel like “the bad guy” despite her compliance with the rules. She wondered why they were holding her accountable for what these boys and men feel and think. She was not going to sit back and let them do this to her.
Not Seeing Eye To Eye
Clare was furious on the inside but fought hard to remain calm. Once again, she explained to the teacher that not only did her dress comply with the rules, but she had not even danced yet. She wrote, “I never signed any documentation agreeing to adhere to any sort of dress code, and the dress code that was verbally communicated to me was followed to the letter.” When her friends came to support her, the teacher asked them not to meddle. However, James decided it was time to do something about it.
James told the school dance administrators this: “That’s fine, she wasn’t doing anything wrong but if you’re kicking her out then the group that she came with is leaving too and you’ll need to refund all of our tickets.” All her friends were prepared to leave the ball by then, though they demanded a full refund of $25 for the tickets. However, Clare felt victimized and humiliated – the refund was not enough.
The negotiations kept going for what seemed like a lifetime, though they still had not come to a solution by the end of it. Mr. Duncan even told them, “I will not debate with you about this!” When James tried to diffuse the situation, the teacher lost her cool and told a chaperone to fix the handle the situation.
Mrs. Duncan asked the security personnel to have Clare and all her friends removed from the premises. In less than five minutes, their dreams of attending a magical prom disappeared. When the security guard escorted Clare asked him about what his opinions on the situation. She recalled, “I asked the security guy if my dress was compliant with the dress code and if he had noticed any inappropriateness in my behavior and he said he didn’t think I did anything to get kicked out but it wasn’t his call.”
Not Her Responsibility
This was what she wrote later: “I have long legs and I was wearing a sparkly dress, I didn’t look like most of the 13-15-year-old girls there, I looked like a woman. I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed.” She continued, “I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives.”
Nowehere To Go
Clare and her pals all got upset at the way things turned out. Clare wanted justice to be served, so she went out and got it herself. She decided to express her thoughts online. “We walked out of the prom, frustrated and angry and feeling very disrespected and violated,” she said.
When the story became viral, a lot of Facebook users dropped by the Facebook page of the Richmond Homeschool Prom. The comments were not friendly at all, and many were critical and hostile. The administrators quickly deleted these comments, and later decided to simply delete the entire page. Even though it was already dying down, there was someone who did not want to let bygones be bygones.
Clare decided to pour her feelings into her blog. She posted this: “The whole situation made me feel violated, walked over, and ostracized. How is it that what I look like and how I dress constitutes the level of respect you give me?” Mrs. Duncan, the prom administrator, told a different story.
In an interview with WTVR, Mrs. Duncan had this to say about the girl’s dress: “It was right below her butt cheeks by the time I saw her.” She also tried to invalidate Clare’s comments about the dads specifically staring at her by bringing up the number of kids there. She said, “So to be able to even say what they were looking at would be really difficult.” However, Clare had a video to defend her side.
Clare said, “I was informed by more than one friend who stayed at the prom throughout the course of the evening that there was some truly dirty dancing, and that there were several couples making out and grinding on the dance floor, and yet out of a group of 500 people, only one person, (me) got thrown out for inappropriate dancing.” Another student by the name of Callie Hobbs, however, said she saw Clare “grinding”. If you ask her, she thought that the teachers and Clare could have handled it better.
Making A Point
Clare tried to clarify the events of that night: “When the lady kicked me out, they said the dads had complained about my dancing and that meant that they had to have been watching me.” Clare was older and boasted of a more developed body than her peers, which is why she felt targeted. “This is a message to girls built like me, who can’t find jeans that fit The girls with long legs, who are forced to prove that their dresses fit the dress code, just because they have more leg showing than most girls.”
Making Her Point
“This is a message to the women who understand that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you pin a dress, you’re still going to have cleavage show when you bend over,” Clare said. She continued by saying, “Enough with the slut shaming. I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 years old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on. And if you think I am, then maybe you’re part of the problem.”
Clare also described what happened with the promised refunds: “We were verbally promised a full refund for our group, we received only a refund for my ticket, they need to refund 5 more tickets for our group.” Both she and James also feel that the school should have a better system when it comes to dress codes.
The story of her nightmarish prom experience has gotten lots of attention since the story first went viral. Clare received plenty of support on Facebook and her blog. Those who got wind of the story are asking for a formal response from the Richmond Homeschool Prom and those who made the decisions that same night. After all, they made promises to the young girls and boys that they failed to keep.
The Road Ahead
The story behind that night has brought different opinions to light, though let us see what we can make of this mess. Did the prom administration handle the situation in the best way they could? Should we let girls be placed under this sort of scrutiny in the first place? What can we do to stop them from being sexualized, especially by older men? These are only a handful of questions that we need to address for the sake of the youth.